Planning for Vacation When You’re a Freelancer

There is nothing quite like earning your living as a freelancer. Your creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness cannot be contained within the walls of just one office. Instead, you are free to enjoy the flexibility of location and time that employees are rarely offered. Still, there is a downside when it comes to freelancing — vacation time is not included. Where most companies build in a vacation policy to their employees’ work year, there is no such thing as a vacation time freelancer policy. Still, taking time off is possible with a little planning.

Tip 1 for Planning for Vacation: Build it into your schedule.

There will always be another job, another meeting, another contact to be made. In fact, about half of all people in the US don’t take their allotted vacation time. In a recent survey, three out of five reported doing some work while they were away. Even though you are probably not earning money while you are on vacation, building it into your schedule will help you plan financially for the break in income. 

Tip 2 for Planning for Vacation: Communicate early and often.

Your clients will survive without you for a week or 10 days if they know well in advance you will be unavailable. This way, you can both plan your workload in advance of your absence. Deadlines can be met before you leave, and projects with a lower priority can be put off until you get back. It may also be wise to communicate your plans, including when you will not be available on phone, text or email. This will help clients gauge how urgent their “emergency” really is, should one come up.

Tip 3 for Planning for Vacation: Have a backup

Yes, your network of professionals is filled with potential competitors. However, they may also be able to support key elements of your projects while you are gone. This keeps projects moving forward rather than grinding to a halt in your absence. You may also want to consider hiring a temp employee to manage contacts, new leads that may be interested in your product or service, and other phone calls and messages in your absence. This will keep your focus on rest and adventure rather than what is happening with work.

Tip 4 for Planning for Vacation: Build PTO into your budget

We touched on this earlier, but it bears repeating. If your target annual income (before taxes) is $100,000, and the typical employee works 260 days per year (365-105 for weekends), you would need to make $385 per day. Now, if you wanted to take 30 days of vacation per year you would only work 230 days out of the year. This means you would need to make $435 per day to maintain that level of income. ($100,000/230=$434.78) Building your desired number of vacation days into your income goals means being able to take personal time off when you want to.

As freeing as being a freelancer is, it is not without its pitfalls. However, creating and sticking to a vacation plan can help you get much-deserved rest without guilt, interruption or loss of income.